School lunches will look a lot different this year. When students go back to class in person, Many will eat at their desks instead of crowded cafeterias. Even for virtual/at-home learning, you may need to plan ahead for lunch. For example, your routines and expectations for a family dinner may be different than for a school day lunch. Below are some ideas for how to make meals and snacks work for your child(ren) and your family.
Make meals and snack a regular part of a daily routine. Meals and snacks can add predictability in virtual learning routines that may vary from day to day. Hopefully there is a schedule that allows for consistent times for snacks and meals, most schools want parents to keep kids on schedule, breaking for lunchtime at the same time each day in between online classes and school work. If you haven’t prepared the lunches ahead, your child may not have enough time to eat before their next virtual class. But if not, you can still build a routine by having a regular location or a consistent transition routine (for example turn off computer, wash hands, and eat).
Consider your child’s needs. For some children, meals or snacks are a needed and deserved social break from being engaged in online schoolwork for the rest of the day. School is hard and virtual school may take a different level of focus. If your child needs these times to recharge, consider setting up a mealtime or snack time routine that allows for downtime. Not all meals need to be family meals just because you are at home. For other children, meals or snacks might be a time to process or share about their day. They may want or need to talk to someone during these snacks or meals.
Balance healthy eating and independence. Healthy eating is certainly important, but snacks and meals at school are often a time when children can exercise their independence.
Provide healthy options, but also offer children an opportunity to make choices, just as they might when they are eating in the cafeteria at school. Actually packing or preparing your child’s lunch for virtual learning may keep them out of the snack cabinet and those sugary snacks that will make it more difficult for them to stay in their seat and stay focused.
Think about building in social opportunities. Snacks and meals are often used as a time for building social skills in the school day (like lunch groups). As noted above, these times may also be a welcome break, but consider building in social experiences on occasion. This could be a physically distanced lunch with other children in the neighborhood, a virtual meet-up with a classmate or friend, or a special “kids only” lunch with their siblings.
Posts written by the Team ELM family!